SB Nation’s 2016 Masters Preview

A Masters Glossary: Wild guesses about the many and odd traditions at Augusta

by Seth Rosenthal

No event in golf, and probably all of sports, is more beholden to tradition than the Masters. The course and tournament week are littered with unique traditions, monuments and terms that you only get at Augusta National. Most of these are antiquated and a nod to founder Bobby Jones and former chairman Clifford Roberts, who established rigid protocols for what is now the game’s most prestigious major.

They make a big deal about language and tradition around here and do not really care if it offends you. If you don’t want to adhere, they’re happy to tell you to get lost and are unconcerned about losing your patronage or approval.

There’s absolutely no running on the grounds. There’s no one screaming “mashed potatoes.” If you’re calling the event on-air, where there’s still extremely restrictive and limited coverage by modern standards, you better be clear on the terms you’re supposed to use or else a green jacket will make sure you fall in line or are removed from your position. Never call them fans, spectators or the crowd, but rather “patrons” that are part of the “gallery.” There are no sand traps at Augusta, just “bunkers.” Perhaps most notoriously, it’s not the front and back nines, but the first and second nine — a requirement put in place to avoid the potential for that most vulgar utterance “back side.” This does not happen at any other golf tournament.

So we decided to have a most uninformed golf and Masters authority provide a helpful glossary for some of the many traditions and terms

Butler Cabin

Okay, so I think each Master gets his own butler who follows him from hole to hole feeding him pimento cheese and offering him hankies and stuff. And I guess they all bunk together in a cabin near the course?

A smallish white house near the main Augusta National clubhouse, it’s one of 10 cabins on the property and most famous because it’s where, on the lower floor, the made-for-tv green jacket presentation for the winner takes place Sunday night. Unless you’ve won, earned low amateur honors, are Jim Nantz or the Chairman of the club, you’ve probably never entered this extra-exclusive cabin. Nantz will utter the phrase several times throughout the broadcast and come Sunday night, there will be awkward handshakes.


Crow’s Nest

This, I believe, is a really, really high pole with a human-sized basket on top that allows you to watch all of the golfing on the whole course simultaneously. It only has one seat and a ticket costs $500,000. Jim Nantz has slept in it.

This is a 1,200 square foot space at the top of the clubhouse, where amateurs in the field are invited to stay for the week. It’s exclusive and almost impossible to get access, but once you’re there, it’s a fairly spartan setting. There’s enough room to accommodate five people, with barracks-style beds lined up behind a partition wall separating sleeping areas from a common room. Not every amateur stays in this hidden but famous spot, but many, including Tiger Woods, have taken up Augusta’s offer for the experience.

Green Jacket

Stinging wasp native to Georgia. Always an issue at this time of year.

The most coveted prize in professional golf is not a trophy or a winner’s check,, but a garment. Members started wearing them in 1937 so they would be easily recognized on the grounds and could assist patrons. The tradition of presenting the winner with on started in 1949. The winner gets a new, tailored jacket that he can take off the grounds and wherever he wants for the year he is reigning champion. But then it’s returned and kept in his locker, where he can access it anytime he’s back on the property.

Eisenhower Tree

… isn’t that a sex thing?

The most romanticized tree in golf was mourned, eulogized, celebrated and memorialized in what seemed like a surreal parody at the 2015 Masters. The massive loblolly pine that lorded over the left side of the 17th fairway was lost in February 2014 during ice and snow storms, but Chairman Billy Payne, in a grand presentation, announced last year that two graphs of the tree had been preserved and would be displayed prominently in the clubhouse. The tree got its name because Dwight Eisenhower, avid golfer and ANGC member, would allegedly always hit his drive into the tree and lobbied the membership to remove it. Then Chairman Clifford Roberts denied the request and it became known as the Eisenhower tree. The tree had less and less of an impact on the pros in recent years, who could bomb the ball around, over and past the obstruction (although Tiger Woods injured his Achilles trying to hit a ball from the pine straw underneath it in 2011). It’s gone, but will never be forgotten and you’ll continue to hear about every time a player comes through the 17th.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Second Cut

After they play the Masters the first time, they let everyone play the course again, and they splice both of these “cuts” together to craft the storyline of the TV presentation.

This is what they call the “rough” at Augusta National. The course is infamous for not growing the rough to the extreme and penal lengths you usually see at a U.S. Open and even a PGA Championship. The grass is longer than the fairway, but it’s still quite playable compared to what these players are used to on the professional Tours. So, bomb away off the tee.

Non-Competing Marker

Each Master carries around two Sharpies: one for marker-battling other Masters, one for autographing things. This is the latter.

If an uneven number of players make the cut, Augusta National calls in a marker to play with the solo pro that’s off in the first tee time on Saturday or Sunday. The marker’s score does not matter and he is there generally to keep a normal pace of play so that the single does not zip through through the round hours ahead of the group behind him. It’s mandatory to take a marker at Augusta too. This has traditionally been Jeff Knox, a member and ringer who can hang with the pros. He’s a legend to golf nerds who follow this closely. He memorably beat and took money off Rory McIlroy back in 2014 and impressed McIlroy so much that the pro wanted to pick his brain for course expertise and green reads later. He’s also beaten and won a wager with Sergio Garcia, who allegedly refused to shake his hand. He outdrove Miguel Angel Jimenez after the Spaniard explicitly told him not to and gave tips on how to play Amen Corner to Bubba Watson, who was just, you know, the defending Masters winner at the time.

Andrew Redington/Getty Images


We had one of these when I was little. You wear it on one leg and jump over it with the other and it keeps count. I guess that would help you train for golf?

The practice round tradition of skipping balls across the water at the par-3 16th hole. Just about every single pro obliges the crowd demands and steps up to the end of the tee box in front of the hazard and tries to rip one off the water and onto the green. Martin Kaymer and the grumpy Vijay Singh are the most recent pros to make a hole-in-one skipping it off the water in one of the less stuff and entertaining Masters traditions.

Photo via Mike Ehrmann

Clubhouse Oak

Full name: Reginald Oakley. This is the dude who makes the whole thing happen. He’s lived at the course since the ’60s. He mows all the grass by hand, digs all the holes, welds all the clubs and sews all the golfing hats. Stop by the club late at night and you can spot him puttering around getting this ready, followed by his trusty dog…

The uncreative name for the giant oak tree in the back of the clubhouse that serves as a gathering spot for players, media, members and guests. The tree canvasses a massive area just outside the clubhouse and between the putting green. Walk by in the past and you might see Arnold Palmer and other legends hanging out under the big oak. It’s also the backdrop for many player interviews conducted for TV.

Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports


Good dog.

Every hole at Augusta is named after a flower, tree, shrub, or some other vegetation on the property. Many of them sound ridiculous but it’s something the club promotes often and takes quite seriously. Firethorn is the par-5 15th and you’ll hear about it all weekend because it’s a spot where late moves are made with eagles and birdies.

Champions Dinner

This, too, is a sex thing, I’m pretty sure.

The Tuesday night tradition at the Masters. Last year’s winner sets the menu and all past champions show up for an exclusive off-the-record evening. Interest keeps growing around the menus that the winners’ set, and this year Jordan Spieth has said he’ll serve “Texan meats” and barbecue. The defending champ almost always serves something native to his home country or region, like Aussie Adam Scott’s choice of “Moreton Bay Bugs.” There’s also Bubba Watson, who, given complete freedom and almost every resource in the world to craft a meal, served caesar salad and a grilled chicken breast.

The Silver Cup

One hole on the course is secretly fitted with this bonus cup before the golfing begins. Whoever gets the ball in there first is awarded double points for that hole. Double golf points.

This is the award for the low amateur honors. Augusta venerates the amateurs, an homage to their founder, Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur ever. Of course, Jones was a different kind of Am in a different era. The Ams that make it to Augusta are almost all elite college players and prospects who will turn pro soon. Still, Augusta loves its Amateurs. There are six exemptions for the Ams and the goal is usually just to make the cut. Bryson DeChambeau, hailed as a once-in-generation prospect who has already had a legendary amateur career, would be the favorite to win the 2016 Silver Cup.

David Cannon/Getty Images

Magnolia Lane

Copyright-friendly Beatles cover song.

The most famous and difficult-to-access driveway in golf. Head to street view on Google Maps and there’s literally a security guard chasing the Google camera car away. It’s another one of those things you’ll hear about all week and that’s as close as you’ll come to it.

Founders Circle

Whisky made from fermented Augusta grass after the tournament is over. Tastes like poison, costs $400 a bottle.

The end of Magnolia Lane, a perfectly manicured circle with the the club’s world-famous logo designed in flowers in the center. A shot you’ll see throughout the week but will never approach in your real, actual life.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The pine straw

A Masters alimentary tradition. All drinks are consumed through these wooden straws after Eldridge Masters himself first used one in a moment of inspired desperation at the original tournament in 1708. They leak fluid constantly and have a tendency to splinter. Garbage straws.

Most golf courses have rough. The Masters has the second cut and the pine straw. If you’re tee shot does go off line, the resultant circumstances are almost always much more forgiving at Augusta than some of the other major championships. The pine straw is around most trees in play and while it can get slick and is not and ideal spot, you can still play your ball and put a good swing on it from the stuff. Just ask Phil Mickelson or Bubba Watson.

David Cannon/Getty Images

Hogan Bridge

Pretty sure that’s a character in a John Grisham book.

The bridges get names, most often after a legend who did work at Augusta (Hogan, Sarazen and Nelson). The Hogan Bridge is the famous crossing of Rae’s Creek at the 12th hole, the most famous par-3 in the world.

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

White jumpsuit

Wait, are these *all* sex things? Am I being pranked?

At every other golf event, the caddie has to wear a bib, usually with the title sponsor or championship’s logo on it. But that’s it — you can wear shorts and a golf shirt with whatever sponsor logos, and a hat with the same stuff. Not at Augusta. Every caddie must wear a full body white jumpsuit with nothing but the club’s logo and your player’s name on it. They’re a staple and instant signifier of the Masters. And the hats? Green Masters logo hats only.

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Bikini Wax

Golfer’s term for when you hit the ball so low and so hard it mows the grass?

This is absolutely not a Masters-blessed term or tradition but it has become associated with the event whether the green jackets like it or not. In the 1994 CBS broadcast, analyst Gary McCord, who has an irreverent style, joked that Augusta uses bikini wax to make the greens so slick. No one took him seriously, of course, but the club told CBS to hoist him off the broadcast. He’s been banned ever since in an episode that only illuminates Augusta’s absurdity, stuffiness and inflexibility. McCord is perhaps CBS’ top analyst and still works every week on their PGA Tour telecasts…except Augusta, where it’s been more than 20 years now.

Flowering Crab Apple

Special power-up that makes fireballs shoot out of your golf club.

Another ridiculous name for a hole, this one being the par-3 4th.

Friends, Hello

Copyright-friendly Beatles cover song.

Jim Nantz is as much a part of the Masters as anything else now and well, that greeting is the most famous in golf.

Honorary Starter

Each year, a celebrity gets to fire the opening gun, which signals the Masters that it’s time to run out to the holes and start golfing. This year it is Aloe Blacc.

The special Thursday morning tradition that could only take place at the Masters. Two or three legends get the tournament underway on No. 1 tee with the Augusta Chairman presiding. It’s before 8 a.m. local but the crowds swell. The formal tradition began in 1963 and legends like Snead, Sarazen and Nelson. Gary Player, Jack Nicklausand Arnold Palmer have done it together from 2012 to 2015, but Palmer has already announced he won’t be making a swing this year. He had done served as an honorary starter since 2007.

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

A tradition unlike any other

Okay, definitely a sex thing. Yeah, these were all sex things.

The Masters … and the Masters on CBS.